At this evening’s 83rd annual Academy Awards, “The King’s Speech” is certain to capture Oscar gold, and plenty of it. Regardless of how many statuettesthe moviewins, Dogsters are sure to be rooting for it.Although dogs play a small role in the story, Dogsters appreciate their presence, however fleeting,as well as the filmmakers’historically accurate K9 canine casting.
The movie chronicles the reluctant rise to power of Albert,Duke of York (Colin Firth), whobravely metthe challenge of becoming England’s king when his elder brotherDavid (a.k.a. King Edward) famously abdicated the throne.Prince Albert – whose title became King George VI -ended up becoming one of England’s most beloved rulers. But that might not have been the case had the pedigreed purebred not had coaching from a mutt of acommoner named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). An expert in speech defects, Logue, an Australian,enabled the new king to overcome his crippling stammer.
Living in his movie-star-charismatic brother’s shadow, poor, plain Albert -“B-B-B-Bertie”to his family – struggled withthis speech impediment from early childhood.A stammerwas a major handicap to a public figure in the early decades of the twentieth century, for modern monarchs were obliged to useradio tobroadcast important messages to their people.Many knighted doctors failed to fix tongue-tied Bertie’s problem; fortunately for the man who had to be king, a failed Shakespearean actor who had served in the firstWorld War developed an effective method to combat speech defects.
Even more fortunately, Bertie’s wife, the Duchess of York,learned of Logue’s success and arranged a confidential consultationfor her husband. As the movie proves, that fateful meeting would change history, transforming an underdog into monarch material in much the same way that Henry Higgins, in “Pygmalion” and “My Fair Lady,”passed offfictionalCockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle asa Duchess. An underdog all his life, B-B-B-Bertie became a top dog – and a champion, to boot.
In the early 1930s, when the action of this movie takes place, the Duke and Duchess and their two daughters, the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, had Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Elizabeth’s devotion to this breed is steadfast to this day (in fact,whenwe see the Queencrack asmile, it’s usually when she’s in her Corgis’ company). This factoid is so widely known that there was no way not to include at least one Corgi sighting in this film. Happily, there are several; in one of the movie’s first scenes, we seea tuxedo’dBertie on his knees,gamely impersonating a penguin for the pre-bedtime amusement of his daughters, each with a Corgi by her side.
Later, when Bertie – now King George – must stand anddeliver the famous wartime speech that gives the movie its title, we see and hear a Corgi, who barks encouragement at him as he walks the long gauntlet toward the microphone. Dogsters might not be amused to hear the King mutter something about “the wretched dogs.” Nonetheless, the Corgis area forceful presence who cannot be denied – by the filmmakers or the king they capture so compellingly on film.
That’s not the only dog breed in evidence. An earlier scene depicts a soiree at Balmoral Castle thrown by the dashing King Edward (played to perfection by the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Guy Pearce) and his lady love, the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. You’ll have to really keep an eye peeled, but a long camera shot briefly revealsa glamorous Simpson in the distance, cuddling and fussingoverher little lapdog, a Pug – and as anyone who follows royal lore knows,she and herman(later dubbed Duke and Duchess of Windsor) were major fanciers of this breed.
It’s a minor detail, but for Dogsters, it has major impact. All dogs were provided by Animals O Kay, which alsosuppliednon-humantalent for such movies as “Murder on the Orient Express,” “For Your Eyes Only,” and “American Werewolf in London.”
Happy Oscars night – may the best movies win!
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